The city of Xinmi in Henan Province has been shutting down temples in full force, and resentment is stirring among civilians.
“This is my home. If you lock the door, where am I supposed to go?”
That was the question of an 80-year-old woman from Chaohua town, under the administration of Xinmi city, to a government official who came to shut down her temple. And they did, by placing a large lock on the temple gate – and taking away the key.
In a matter of five days, from October 28 to November 1, 35 Buddhist temples and memorial temples –places of worship built to commemorate prominent people – within the jurisdiction of Xinmi alone have been either shut down or sealed off, including one ancient temple that has existed since around the end of the Sui dynasty (581-618 AD) and the beginning of the Tang dynasty (618-690 AD).
“For the past couple of days, I have been driving my car out to take a look at the temples nearby. All of them, both big and small, have been locked up, and their temple banners have been taken down,” one temple head told Bitter Winter. “This is a county-wide unified operation and we don’t know what the next steps are going to be. These [latest] policies are particularly strict and nobody dares to try to resist for fear of being detained.”
And the fear, well, is prevalent.
“When I saw the government employees coming to shut down the temple, I was so scared that my legs were shaking,” another temple head said. “They had me take down the banners and lock the door. I had to do whatever they said. They said it was the policy adopted by the Central Party Committee. If I didn’t obey and was thrown in jail, what would I be able to do?”
The destruction, too, is noticeable. As local villagers detailed, the names of CCP members who have donated to temples have been painted over on the donors’ recognition stelae – typically stone or wooden ancient monuments – that sit in front of many temple entrances.
The CCP isn’t just cracking down on religious people, but also are paying particular attention to the eradication of belief among the Party members, driving home its ultimate point: Communist Party members must only believe in the Party.
But some workers, appointed by the government, say they are reluctant to the Party’s dirty work of cracking down on religion, as our reporter learned from a worker sent to shut down temples and destroy incense burners.
“I don’t want to do this, either,” the worker said. “It was accumulating merits of those people to build this temple, who would want to do something so wicked? But I was sent here to do this job, and there’s nothing I can do about it. This is state policy. If anyone dares to go against it or disobey the Communist Party, they will be thrown in prison.” He then proceeded to take pictures of the incense burner he had just smashed and sent them to the town authorities, reporting the task complete.
Villagers see the defacing of the donors’ recognition stelae as the coming of another Cultural Revolution.
Even for nonbelievers who don’t subscribe to Buddhism in China, it is generally considered wicked to destroy temples or to offend the gods. Stories of retribution following the destruction of temples during the Cultural Revolution still circulate. So, most government employees don’t like to personally destroy or shut down temples, but rather prefer spend money to have others commit the wicked acts.
Reported by Jiang Tao